Share This Page

Upgrades to Immaculate Conception's cemetery almost complete

| Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, 11:27 p.m.
The tombstone of Jennie Hefferle (1911-1925) in the children's section of Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Irwin on Nov. 16, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
A memorial obelisk, dedicated in 2011, in the children's section of Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Irwin on Nov. 16, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

Upgrades to Immaculate Conception's cemetery are almost complete, as the Irwin parish celebrates 150 years.

The cemetery, which dates back to 1873, covers 15 acres next to Union Cemetery, about a mile from the parish's Second Street location. Updates include adding space for 500 more cemetery plots and improving the children's burial section with an obelisk in their memory.

About 9,500 people are buried in the cemetery, including about 440 in the children's section, some dating back to 1885.

Many of those children perished during the early-1900s influenza pandemic, said the Rev. John Moineau, the parish's pastor for the past seven years.

“When the flu hit, children were the biggest hit,” Moineau said. “The fathers had to basically dig the graves and bury their own kids.”

It's difficult to tell exactly how many children died of the flu because records don't always list a cause of death, said Jerry Kunkle of Irwin, who serves as cemetery director.

Many children were buried there without grave markers, Moineau said, and other concrete markers disintegrated over the years.

Some records for the children list descriptions like “two year old” as the only identifying information. Graves went unmarked because maybe the family could not afford a marker or perhaps did not want to mark the site, Moineau said.

“We decided to erect an obelisk in memory of the children,” Moineau said. “This obelisk would be a marker to remind us of the section and the children.”

Crumbling concrete crosses were removed, and the engraved gray obelisk is complete, surrounded by a walled, concrete patio and shrubbery.

A sidewalk and small parking lot are in the works.

The renovation not only respects the children interred there, “but the whole sacred ground,” Moineau said.

Kunkle has worked to remap the cemetery, Moineau said.

In days past, Moineau said, the stone marker served as a record, not necessarily anything written.

About 2,300 families belong to Immaculate Conception Parish.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.